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Register for ArtPolitical: Margaret Atwood’s Aesthetics
Registration for ArtPolitical: Margaret Atwood’s Aesthetics is open now! All conference panels are available via Zoom. Register online. We look forward to seeing you there at this international conference.
14-16 Oct 2021, hosted by University of Göttingen, Germany
Conveners: Dr. Dunja Mohr (Erfurt)
and Dr. Kirsten Sandrock (Göttingen)
About the conference:
For Margaret Atwood, politics and art inherently belong together. In the pioneering poetry collection Power Politics (1971), Atwood addresses the intertwining of the personal and the political, which has run through her oeuvre ever since; “Power is our environment. We live surrounded by it: it pervades everything we are and do, invisible and soundless, like air.” (1973, 7) For decades Atwood’s work has resonated as tales of and testaments to political, socio-economic, and (bio)technological concerns of our present times. While Atwood has been vocal about politics, an environmental activist, and keenly involved with the PEN association, her writings have recently acquired a new international impact that underlines the fusion of politics and aesthetics in her work. Her classic female dystopia The Handmaid’s Tale (1985) has gained momentum as a prophetic 20th-century allegory of 21st-century political developments in the US, seeing a 670% year-on-year increase in sales and firmly sitting on the Sunday Times bestseller list for sixteen weeks in 2017. Exceptionally popularized by the multi-Emmy and Golden Globe award-winning Hulu TV series adaptation (Miller 2017–), Atwood’s dystopian work has received a surprising fan following, including admonitory dress-ups in Handmaiden gowns. The publication of Atwood’s recent Booker-prize winning The Testaments (2019), a revisiting of The Handmaid’s Tale, came along with a global fanfare, midnight book store launches including staff in the signature Handmaiden gowns, live readings, and a ‘Margaret Atwood Live’ broadcast to cinemas around the world.
In Political Aesthetics (2010) Crispin Sartwell terms the conceptual “intimate” (11) relationship between politics and aesthetics “artpolitical,” arguing that all political systems, and politics of resistance, use aesthetics and an aesthetic system. With reference to the importance of aesthetics for a political philosophy, Ernst Bloch has emphasized the important political function of narration, “Stage and story can be either a protective park or a laboratory; sometimes they console or appease, sometimes they incite; they can be a flight from or a prefiguring of the future” (1968). In this sense, literary and media representations and cultural adaptation practices contain a significant transformative potential that reaches beyond the page. Although arguably not all literature is driven by a political impetus, literature that intentionally triangularly oscillates between reality, speculation, and fiction provides an exceptional imaginary laboratory—what John Gardner called a “moral laboratory” (1978)—for ethical, political, and personal choices and for concerns about resilience, responsibilities/respons-abilities, and vulnerabilities (cf. Johnson 1993; Nussbaum 1995, 1997, Butler 2016, Haraway 2016).
Our conference seeks to address this interaction between politics and aesthetics in Atwood’s oeuvre as well as its various transmedial adaptations. We seek to explore the various facets and layers of the artpolitical in her work, including for example the themes of social and environmental justice, Anthropocene, posthumanism, the role of religion or political satire as well as social control, and (biotech-)identity. While The Handmaid’s Tale and its adaptations have gained special attention in recent years, we also welcome papers that address different works by Margaret Atwood, including her poetic, fictional, and non-fictional work as well as her speculative fiction. We invite contributions from different fields of research and are particularly interested in interdisciplinary and intersectional approaches, including political sciences, cultural and media studies or sociology.
Our call for papers suggested such topics as:
- political and literary aesthetics
- Canadian literature and power politics
- genre politics
- narratological approaches to artpolitical
- prosumers, fan culture, and political organization
- gender, body, and (national) identities
- teaching artpolitical
- the politics of writing: testimony and witnessing, knowledge and power
- posthumanism and biotech
- transmedia adaptations
- serialization, sequels and re-visions
- environmental justice, Anthropocene
- totalitarianism, political systems, surveillance, corporatism
- vulnerabilities, response-abilities, acts of resistance
Margaret Atwood Society to co-sponsor first-ever ALL Margaret Atwood Conference
The Margaret Atwood Society is thrilled to announce what we hope is the first of many conferences completely dedicated to the works of Margaret Atwood, this multidisciplinary conference, to be titled “‘Artpolitical’ – Margaret Atwood’s Aesthetics,” will be hosted by University of Göttingen, Germany and will be held October 14, 15, and 16, 2021. The conference will be conducted entirely in English. The conference is created and chaired by longstanding Atwood Society member Dr. Dunja Mohr, Erfurt University and her colleague and fellow Atwood Society member Dr. Kirsten Sandrock, Göttingen University. Frankfurt (FRA) is the nearest international airport.
Full CFP and additional information can be found here.
Atwood to release collection of poetry in November
On November 10, 2020, Margaret Atwood will release a collection of poetry, her first poetry collection since 2007’s The Door.
On its page, publisher HarperCollins says Atwood “addresses themes such as love, loss, the passage of time, the nature of nature and – zombies. Her new poetry is introspective and personal in tone, but wide-ranging in topic. In poem after poem, she casts her unique imagination and unyielding, observant eye over the landscape of a life carefully and intuitively lived.”
Atwood will narrate the audiobook herself, according to The Guardian.
Atwood Society panel at MMLA 2019
The Midwest Modern Language Association 61st annual convention will be held in Chicago November 14-17, 2019. The Margaret Atwood Society-sponsored panel will be Saturday the 16th at 1:00. The title is Duality & Doubles in the Novels of Margaret Atwood. The Treasurer of the Society, Denise Du Vernay, is chairing the panel, and Society President Karma Waltonen is presenting a paper on Alias Grace. Three other member presenters will be discussing The Handmaid’s Tale and the MaddAddam trilogy.
Registration and location information can be found here.
Atwood on long list for Scotiabank Giller Prize for fiction
The Toronto Star announced today that the books longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize for fiction have been chosen.
Twelve Canadian books are on the list for the Giller Prize for fiction, selected from a field of 117 books. Margaret Atwood’s fiction has made the Giller list three times, her novels Alias Grace in 1996 (which won), Oryx and Crake in 2003, and The Year of the Flood in 2009. Please see the article in the Star for information on this year’s other eleven nominees.
Six finalists will be announced Sept. 30, and the Giller winner will be announced at a gala in Toronto on Nov. 18.
UPDATE: On Sept. 30, The Testaments was not included on the shortlist.
About the Giller Prize for fiction: The prize was founded in 1994 by businessman Jack Rabinovitch to honor his wife, literary journalist and former Toronto Star books editor Doris Giller. The prize is $100,000 CAD.
Tour dates for The Testaments announced
Margaret Atwood’s long-awaited followup to The Handmaid’s Tale, The Testaments, will be released in September, and along with it, Atwood will embark on a reading and speaking tour. We are releasing information on our Twitter page as we learn of individual dates, but all of them can be found on the events page of Atwood’s website, found here. So far, only UK, Ireland, and Canada book tour dates have been officially released (though other Atwood-related events in the United States and elsewhere are frequently announced, and are mentioned on our Twitter feed and Facebook page as we learn about them). We invite you to engage with us on social media, and are happy to re-post Atwood-related news.
Coming soon: The Handmaid’s Tale graphic novel
At long last, the graphic novel of The Handmaid’s Tale is to be released March 26, 2019 by Penguin Random House. It is illustrated by Canadian artist Renee Nault.
New Atwood Poem “Update on Werewolves”
Just posted today on Literary Hub and it’s amazing and right on time–
Update on Werewolves
In the old days, all werewolves were male.
They burst through their bluejean clothing
as well as their own split skins,
exposed themselves in parks,
howled at the moonshine.
Those things frat boys do.
Went too far with the pigtail yanking—
growled down into the pink and wriggling
females, who cried Wee wee
wee all the way to the bone.
Heck, it was only flirting,
plus a canid sense of fun:
See Jane run!
But now it’s different:
No longer gender specific.
Now it’s a global threat.
Long-legged women sprint through ravines
in furry warmups, a pack of kinky
models in sado-French Vogue getups
and airbrushed short-term memories,
bent on no-penalties rampage.
Look at their red-rimmed paws!
Look at their gnashing eyeballs!
Look at the backlit gauze
of their full-moon subversive halos!
Hairy all over, this belle dame,
and it’s not a sweater.
O freedom, freedom and power!
they sing as they lope over bridges,
bums to the wind, ripping out throats
on footpaths, pissing off brokers.
Tomorrow they’ll be back
in their middle-management black
and Jimmy Choos
with hours they can’t account for
and first dates’ blood on the stairs.
They’ll make some calls: Good-bye.
It isn’t you, it’s me. I can’t say why.
They’ll dream of sprouting tails
at sales meetings,
right in the audiovisuals.
They’ll have addictive hangovers
and ruined nails.